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One of the delights of reviewing jazz these days is that there's so much cross-fertilisation going on: Africa is still injecting new rhythms, instruments and structures into the mainline; Asia is producing astonishing technicians who play with respect for their own traditions and true soul as well; and as for Latin America... well, if all the dancers in all the salsa clubs around the world decided to link hips simultaneously it would make one hell of a block party.
Take 24-year-old South African pianist Moses for example. He grew up in Tembisa - a township near enough to Jo'burg to make the contrasts painfully stark - listening to Parker, Miles and the fifties canon of immortals on wickedly expensive vinyl passed around like scripture from one believer to another. But all around him was the potent influence of Hugh Masekela, Abdullah Ibrahim, Kippie Moketsi and Dudu Pukwana, and it's an updated version of their magical integration of late 20th century African harmonies, melodies and rhythms into modern jazz that Moses is after.
His latest for the "no boundaries" M.E.L.T. 2000 label - which specialises in modern music from Southern Africa - is a delightful dip into a barrel filled with seductive influences. Moses has layered Cuba (with celebrated Cuban pianist Chucho Valdes as mentor), Brazil (Flora Plurim's unmistakeable vocalisations), the Cameroon (funked up by Brice Wassy's infectious time-keeping), and even Bristol (just a lickle drum'n'bass from somewhere...) over his own instinctive township feels. The resultant blends are so cheering I think Taiwa's left hand could probably heal the sick - or at least make them feel a sight more chirpy. Heartily recommended.
Years ago now--in Rhodesia--listening to Voice of America with Willis Conover I heard Bunk Johnson play When The Saints Go Marching In, and Billie Holiday sing Don't Explain. I knew then there was no other life for me than jazz.